Long time no see, right? So sorry I’v been MIA for a while, but I was prepping for finals, studying my brains out, and writing research papers and marketing cases — and then Christmas quickly came before I could even say “Grandma got run over by a reindeer.”
While my Advertising class has come to an end and I don’t need to upkeep this blog site anymore, I figure ‘why not?’ — I have time on my hands this break and I enjoy writing these posts. So how has advertising and marketing affected me in the last few weeks? Well ….
Last Monday (12/21) I went to an Oh Honey concert at Webster Hall in the city to kick-off my winter break. While I am not particularly a hardcore fan of the group, I went for two primary reasons: to help support an up-and-coming band and because my best friend bought an extra ticket so I could accompany him. I knew of the concert before my friend because I go to school with the lead singer’s sister — word of mouth communication and advertising right there. My friend had heard about it through social media because he is a fan of both the band and the record label to which they are a part of. Plus, I have been to that venue before and have had good past experiences there, which made me more inclined to attend. So how was the concert? It was great and I had a lot of fun!
Aside from the concert, I also had to do all that last minute Christmas shopping at home this past week since I came home so late from school. While I could have done online shopping to save myself the time and hassle, I did not; I was *that* person who was pushing and shoving in stores for gifts. I looked at paper ads/circulars for the best savings and deals so I could spare my wallet and bring smiles to my friends’ and family’s faces at the same time. While on the gift giving topic, I received gifts that were purchased both online and in-store, and I got a regift too from one of my family members. I am totally a proponent of the controversial regifting tradition, and do not mind at all being on the receiving end.
Additionally, one of the cool things about being home for the holidays is seeing the neighborhood houses decorate for Christmas. And no, I do not mean put a couple of outlined deer on the lawn or icicles hanging from the roof edges. Because why take the subway to Manhattan to see the same old Rockefeller Tree, the outdoor Macy’s display, and the giant ornaments statue across from Radio City with all the tourists?? See, here in Dyker Heights, homeowners GO ALL OUT!! My neighborhood is so famous that we’re featured on social media,late night news programs, and blog posts, and there are huge bus tours (i.e. “A Slice of Brooklyn” for $50 per person over the age of 13) and bike tours that travel around the neighborhood at night the whole month of December. Since I have grown up in this crazy environment for two decades, the displays have gotten bigger, brighter, and more competitive. And it is not uncommon for groups of people to walk around the blocks with a camera in one hand and a hot chocolate in the other because car parking and traffic are atrocious (and even to the point where NYPD blocks off streets with barriers to allow for pedestrian foot traffic flow). Don’t believe me, check it out ….
So when will advertising and marketing impact me again? New Year’s Eve for sure with digital ads, as I say good-bye to the old and countdown to a new beginning with family by my side and with ah-mazing singers serenading me on my TV set. Until then, enjoy these last few days of 2015 ….
As a student who is constantly stressing out about written assignments, doing well on exams, and having everything school-realted organized to T, I find sanity and peace in catching up on my favorite TV shows on the weekends (if I can’t watch them live on TV during the week). However, one show that was the exception was AMC’s The Walking Dead, which aired its mid-season finale last week on Sunday, November 29. As I alluded to in a previous blog post, I am a huge fan of the show, and I run informal discussions at my college twice a month for this fall semester. Comic book nerds and sci-fi fans gawk out at trying to buy the highly coveted tickets and passes to the annual San Diego Comic Con in June; anybody who is hot in the television and movie industries are there to promote their latest installment(s) to fans who live and breathe these kinds of genres I mentioned earlier.
While I cannot afford the luxury of flying out to California and spending bookoo bucks on the Comic Con weekend experience, there are smaller kinds of conventions that are similar to Comic Con throughout the year in different cities. One of those kinds of conventions is known as Walker Stalker Con, the zombie, horror, and sci-fi fan convention. When I learned I would be conducting research on zombies in pop culture back in May of this year, I stalked this particular convention out in every way known to man — I was looking at the various cities it was being held in; how much transportation costs would be to those cities; the entry ticket costs alone; the actors and actresses who would be attending; etc. After a very long 7 months, I finally got to attend the Walker Stalker Con New York/New Jersey one this past weekend (December 4-6) at the Meadowlands Exposition Center.
While I won’t bore you with the details about how long the lines were or how much autographs and photographs were, I will give you a little taste of the marketing and advertising that was involved at this event. I first heard about the event through the Internet/Google searches and then followed its social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram). Once the date started getting closer and closer, word-of-mouth exploded because people began to connect the dots that certain Walking Dead cast members would be there. VIP passes for the more popular characters instantly sold out at outrageously high prices that ranged between (like Damon and Stefan from The Vampire Diaries at $360 each; TWD‘s Daryl at $400, Beth at $320, and Merle at $320) — but even the less popular characters (who either died or were overall really hated by fans of TWD) still capitalized on the event with general admission people (cough cough me, who couldn’t afford the VIP packages of $1,400 or $700), charging anywhere between $80 and $160 for combo packages of autographs and camera selfies. The cast members from TVD, TWD, and Gotham capitalized on this because they knew fanatics would sell their organs on the black market just to breathe the same air as them or to stammer out a “Hi, oh my God, I love you” when they have the coveted 3 seconds to meet them.
Besides having the chance to meet cast members for a price along the expo center’s perimeters, the center was dedicated to artists and merchandise sellers. The reason I bring up these vendors is because they had to market themselves to hordes of fans and make themselves distinctively stand out from the guys on either side of their table in order to make a profit. Many talented artists were there, mainly drawing profiles of the various cast members, comic book heroes and villains, and anything else that could be related to the genres that this convention was dedicated to. Some artists charged lower prices for their pieces of artwork to sell more, whereas some charged higher prices for the more elaborately drawn and/or time consuming pieces. For me personally, after spending $100 to walk in the door alone AND THEN paying for cast members’ autographs or photos with them, I was not about to spend a lot of money on merchandise and drawings. After going around and around and around, I found a younger artist who was insanely talented, and I was willingly to support him by purchasing his stuff. He was selling his pieces at reasonably affordable prices and deals: $10 a pop; Buy 3 for $30, Get 1 Free; Buy 6 for $60, Get 1 Free. Although the convention was a cash-only event that had ATMs within the venue, this artist had his own credit card machine hooked up to his iPad. Great — I can use my credit card to make the purchase, and use the cash I was originally going to spend on it toward another autograph or photo. After I chose the drawings I wanted, he signed them — so I knew who he was — and he included a business card in the bag that contained his contact and social media info, should I want to purchase again from him in the future. While walking away with breathtaking hand-drawn pictures, I realized he did so much advertising and marketing within a 2 minute transaction, that many others probably were not capitalizing on.
The night before the event, I also downloaded the official “Walker Stalker Con” app that had a digital map of the venue and where each cast member was sitting; a list of which guests would be attending; times for photo opportunities with cast members (at additional costs of course); where the screening areas and panels were located in the venue and what time they would be taking place. Let’s be real, this app saved me by helping me plot and plan my course of actions so I would not be wasting time when I actually got there. When I finally got home that night after a long, 8-straight hours of walking and standing around, I updated my social media accounts to essentially brag to everyone who I saw and met.
Additionally, at this event, they also advertised for the Heroes & Villains Fan Fest at the same venue next month in January via hand-out print ads (small laminated flyers). At this convention so far, cast members from Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham will be there. Although I knew about this event a few weeks ago – again through social media (Twitter) – it was cool to see the promos for it at this event and get hyped about it. Yes, I have intentions on attending this fan fest as well … even though I don’t think my wallet can take any more hits, ha ha ha.
Miss me and my blog last week? As Gossip Girl once said for Thanksgiving, “I’m trading my laptop for Stovetop. And for the next 16 hours the only thing I’m dishing is seconds.” (1×9 “Blair Waldorf Must Pie!”)
Since it is officially December 1, let the ugly Christmas sweaters be received and worn; let the non-stop 24/7 Christmas music be played; and let the “25 Days of Christmas” on ABC Family be finally aired. But before you do take part in those fun festivities, let’s rewind back to this weekend, aka Thanksgiving.
While Thanksgiving, for some, is a time for family, football, and food, it also signifies one of the most iconic annual events in the American economy: Black Friday. (Blog #6 briefly mentioned how Black Friday & Christmas ads began to circulate even around Halloweentime, giving consumers plenty of time to plan and prep for those purchases.)
A little bit of backstory — seven years ago, my family and I spontaneously decided to go Black Friday shopping at the outdoor Woodbury Common Outlets in Harriman, NY while we were eating dessert at Thanksgiving Day dinner. Now mind you, this was when the all the stores began opening at midnight and when people were just as crazy as they are today. My family of nine all witnessed some pretty bizarre things prior to midnight in the parking lot – fist fights for parking spots, people using walkie-talkies to communicate what stores would open at what time and what parking spots opened up, U-HAUL trucks parked on the grass, people lugging around their luggage bags, people jumping out from their cars on the NYS Thruway and jumping the guardrails!! And someone even tried buying the jacket right off my cousin’s back while in Spyder! Fourteen-year-old me was hyped on adrenaline because it was just so exciting to be part of the mad rush with no map, no coupons, no flyers, no game plan at all – all we knew is that we had to try to survive the below freezing weather and stick together as one big family while making whimsical purchases.
But our first Black Friday adventure didn’t end there – we finally left Woodbury around 5 am Friday morning and then decided to hit up the nearest Walmart right down the road because their doors were opening up at 6 am. We ran through the parking lot with our carts, charging for the doors, as if we were gladiators in the Roman Coliseum. To say it was a madhouse was an understatement; people were fighting for products, swearing and flipping the bird at other disgruntled customers. The greatest part about this Walmart trip was the products were not in their typical locations – for example, I distinctly remember that the TVs were in the shoe section and the GameBoys were in the gardening section. So our group took two carts and were scourging for the “desired” products (as I’m writing this I actually remember looking for discounted GPS systems and cameras because those were two of the hottest products back then) in the most obscure places we could find. I remember my second eldest cousin had 2 TVs set in between his feet on the floor at the shoe section, and a woman freaked out and just stole it from him right there in front of all us. PS – We ended up coming home at 9 am, nearly 12 hours later.
Looking back on that first Black Friday trip, it was the only fun one we had in the last few years. In comparison to this year, my trips to Target (Staten Island, NY) and Kohl’s (Brooklyn, NY) were very dull (maybe because we had prepped from the advertisements and flyers). Both these stores opened up at 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day, which took the fun out of waiting on line and rushing in the store in the middle of the night. My family of four went to Target at 8 pm Thanksgiving Day, and it was kinda, but not really crowded – it was like any other shopping trip on a regular trip with a handful more of people dressed in their Sunday best. The only other thing different was the disheveled shelves and products that showed the remnants of the initial 6 pm rush. Then we got to Kohl’s at 11:30 pm and it was an absolute madhouse. Who would’ve thought people would go nuts over clothes of all things? Certainly not me. Yes, we bought a lot of things before coming home at 2:30 am and got some pretty good deals this year, but nothing will ever compare to that first Black Friday adventure.
While my last blog alluded to looking at the marketing techniques of the hit AMC series The Walking Dead (and I had intentions of doing so), I wanted to write my post a few days in advance to continually follow up on Friday night’s terrorist attacks in Paris, France (six different sites including a national stadium, a concert venue, and two restaurants). I first heard about the attacks from the trending topics and posts on my Twitter feed, and then immediately put on BBC News on my TV to stay up-to-date all of Friday night. Thanks to the presence and impact of television, radio, word of mouth, and – most importantly – social media, news spread like wild fire … and this fire will not be fully put out in the next few hours or even by the end of the weekend. Given the severity of this situation, I would say this will be an global hot topic for at least the next month or so.
While many around the world, like celebrities and musicians, send their condolences by expressing their prayers and thoughts online, I’d like to say that many are all talk, but no walk. Yes, you can type something online, click enter, and be on your merry way, carrying on with life as you normally would. I 100% agree with the NY Post journalist Lindsay Putnam, who wrote on Saturday, “The tragedy is just the latest to be appropriated by celebrities for so-called ‘hashtag activism,’ allowing them to do little more than hit ‘post’ and feel as though they’ve made an impact on the world” (http://nypost.com/2015/11/14/celebrity-support-for-paris-on-social-media-is-shallow-and-meaningless/). I think a good number of celebrities posted their thoughts and condolences to upkeep a good reputation, as if it were part of their job requirements; I think a question that can be asked is, Are they being genuine? Disagree with me all you want; it’s just my opinion.
Yet, their are others who are actually doing something proactive about the situation. Take for example, the Irish band U2, who paid their respects with the public to a manmade sidewalk memorial with bouquets of flowers near the Bataclan Theatre. This was after they announced that they would cancel their remaining Paris shows, including an HBO Special taping, in wake of the tragic turn of events (and the Foo Fighters also joined suit by canceling their four upcoming France shows). The Soundcloud link below the U2 photograph highlights a radiointerview between lead singer Bono and RTE News. And superstar Madonna began her Saturday night concert in Stockholm with an emotional speech about the attacks and had a moment of silence, preceding opening with her hit “Like a Prayer.” According to USA Today, she considered canceling the show with 40,000+ fans, saying, “In many ways, I feel torn. Like why am I up here dancing and having fun when people are crying over the loss of their loved ones?” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2015/11/15/madonna-cries-concert-pays-tribute-paris/75824894/).
Additionally to show support and solidarity for France during this time of, many countries and cities around the world highlighted their landmarks with the French flag’s colors as the Eiffel Tower itself went dark over the weekend. I commend this, especially as a New York City native who has a close connection to the 9/11 attacks that took place over a decade ago — terrorism is something that will never go away as our world continues to be filled with violence, and a majority of nations can relate to the sorrow and hurt that accompanies such violent and horrific crimes.
In terms of social media, Facebook launched the “Safety Check” feature on Saturday for Paris, in efforts to connect friends and family to potentially ensure safety and reassurance — the first time marking a non-natural disaster situation and the sixth time this feature had been deployed since its October 2014 inception. According to TIME, “Over four million people used the Safety Check tool to tell their friends they were OK, and over 360 million people got notifications that their friends were safe. Around the world, 78 million people had 183 million interactions relating to the attacks” that night (Atler) (http://time.com/4113410/paris-attacks-facebook-safety-check-beirut/). According to CNN Money, Facebook also “rolled out a new profile photo filter of the French flag as a way for people to show their support for France” on Saturday morning (Garcia, King, and Pallotta) (http://money.cnn.com/2015/11/13/media/facebook-safety-check-paris-attack/).
Additionally, Facebook has also been super impactful through a survivor’s, 22-year-old Isobel Bowdery, viral story/post, who quickly realized that the shootings were not part of the rock concert she was seeing at the Bataclan Theatre (89 were killed at that hostage site alone). According to Yahoo! News, Bowdery wrote in her firsthand account, “Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless,” she wrote, “Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry — not giving those men the fear they longed to see. I was incredibly lucky to survive” (Taylor) (http://news.yahoo.com/south-african-woman-shared-harrowing-164807733.html). “She also used the post to honor those who helped her through the ordeal, both during the attack and after her escape, … and paid tribute to the scores of people killed in the attack — ‘who weren’t as lucky, who didn’t get to wake up today and to all the pain that their friends and families are going through'” (Taylor). The post also included a picture of the blood-stained shirt she wore during the attacks — as of Sunday at 4 p.m., the post has been shared more than 6.54 million times and has over 2.2 million likes. When I read this and saw the shirt, both just made me really see that this was and is still such a horrible thing to have occurred and all the more real to process. I mean I can’t even imagine being in her position in that moment, scared for her life and not knowing if it was going to end right then & there when just moments before she was enjoying a concert on a typical Friday night, and having the bravery to share her personal story for the world to read and share.
On Twitter, the trending hashtag #rechercheParis, which translates to “search Paris,” was also used for users to connect with friends and family in trying to locate where they were; many posted pictures of those MIA, in hopes of hearing back with a hopeful response. According to CNN Money, “by Saturday evening, more than 64,000 tweets had used [the hashtag]” (Garcia, King, and Pallotta) (http://money.cnn.com/2015/11/13/media/facebook-safety-check-paris-attack/). And due to the immediate curfew to stay indoors at all costs in the state of emergency, natives also trended #PorteOuverte (which translates to “Open Doors”), as they opened their doors and homes to strangers looking for shelter and safety moments immediately following the attacks; according to CNN Money, “Within 10 hours, there were about 1 million tweets [with that hashtag]” (Garcia, King, and Pallotta). Thanks to Twitter’s latest recent feature called “Moments” on the home page, which hones in on global stories and events taking place at the moment that we should care and talk about — i.e. people all around the world being immediately kept up-to-date on articles, posts, and live-streaming what was going on in Paris right at that exact moment, without having an actual Twitter account per say.
Although featured on all platforms, although more predominately on Instagram, the photo below, designed by French artist Jean Jullien, went viral through reposts by the general public and celebrities alike. According to a Skype interview with Slate, Jullien said, “I just arrived where I’m staying and I turned on the French radio and I heard about what was happening. So I just sort of started checking on my friends and family through social media, and everybody was saying ‘I’m OK.’ And just because this is what I do, I draw, I reacted graphically, just drawing something spontaneously with pen and paper and then sharing it as a raw reaction. With so much violence and tragedy—we just want a bit of peace” (Neyfakh) (http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/11/14/paris_shooting_eiffel_tower_peace_sign_an_interview_with_artist_jean_jullien.html).
Newspapers worldwide, as seen below from over the weekend, have a universal message and theme on the front pages despite the language barriers.
According to Buzzfeed News, AirBnB “launched a disaster response tool to help those stranded in Paris easily find free housing through the AirBnB platforms” on Saturday, which will be in effect until Monday (Klinkenberg) (http://www.buzzfeed.com/brendanklinkenberg/startsups-rise-to-the-occasion#.lb9JM3gq6). And Google offered free international calls to France via its communication tool Hangouts, which is available on iOS, Androids, and the web; this was the second time this was launched, the first being after the Nepal earthquake (Klinkenberg).
Here at Siena, a candlelight vigil was held Monday afternoon to honor those who lost their lives in Paris, as well as those in the Beirut bombings (I attended this to show my support and give my prayers). This was the second vigil held by the Siena community within the last year for France. Local News Channel 13 came to campus and did a report (with video, photos, and a little written report) on the vigil, which can be seen here at http://wnyt.com/article/stories/S3965061.shtml?cat=300 .
Withouts social media, how could people get in contact with one another?? How could someone like me in upstate NY, USA know what was going in the French capital when I don’t have any personal connections living/visiting there?? In this case – although it’s horrible and awful – social media helped raise awareness and bring people together in solidarity for a cause that many know all to well nowadays.
For those of you who do not know me, I am pretty involved on campus. I am the Vice President of the English Society, which is a club that is geared towards English majors, but is open to any major. I would like to think that we are multifaceted: we offer an outlet for writers/poets to share their outside-of-class work; we offer advice for lowerclassmen on the courses offered here and which teachers are the best for those said courses; we watch literature-based movies, etc.
So as Vice President I am in charge of planning events with the other board members and also running the club’s Twitter account. A problem we have as a club – which I am sure others also run into as well – is grabbing students’ attentions to join and become active members for the semester. Yes, I know what you are probably thinking – English Society sounds lame. But that is exactly what I am trying to avoid – I do not want the club to sound lame or too academic; it is a place for English majors to come together and relax and hang out since all we do is read, write, and analyze 24/7, and extend it for other majors to also enjoy and join. From marketing and advertising perspectives, I make sure that the Twitter page is regularly updated so followers can read about upcoming events, updates, and other cool English major associated tweets (https://twitter.com/sienaenglish). Other board members also use the Daily Digest system to get the word out all over campus about any upcoming events. And all of my friends and roommates know about my position, so word-of-mouth is crucial and key; I will be honest – a good number of the club’s roster is made up of my friends, who are senior English majors. And speaking of marketing and advertising, I represented the club at the Open House this past Sunday afternoon so prospective students could get a better feel for what kinds of clubs are offered here at Siena.
In addition to being Vice President to a club, I also host and lead a “Walking Dead”/Zombies Discussion twice a month this semester, thanks to my research this summer with the English Department’s Casey Fellowship (zombies in pop culture and the infectious interest they currently have everywhere). Maybe you have seen my posters hanging up everywhere on campus??
As part of the deal with the Fellowship Committee, I agreed to run these informal discussions because 1.) not only am I a huge fan of the AMC series, but I know a lot of other college students like it just as much as I do and 2.) I would love to share what I learned to other students who are as equally interested. So why not have my own version of “The Talking Dead” to create a campus-wide conversation about a hit show like “The Walking Dead”?? Additionally I have a 120+ PowerPoint slide presentation (which I made over the summer that highlights various aspects of zombies in different mediums) to go along with the informal verbal discussions. So as a marketer and proponent for this, how do I get the word out? I developed and created my own flyer to be posted all over campus; I advertised it at the English Society’s table at the Fall Club Fair; Dr. Nevárez (my faculty fellowship mentor) e-mailed the flyer as an attachment to students while also promoting her “Zombies!” English Honors Seminar for the Spring 2016 semester; I have spoken in English classes to promote it; I use word of mouth with my friends; and I write and submit Daily Digest posts.
With the mid-season finale coming up in 3 weeks, maybe I will focus on how “The Walking Dead” markets its show, grabs millions of viewers’ attentions, and continues to increase its following with new fans in the fandom …. I guess you will just have to see and come back to the blog next week. (Cue “The Walking Dead” opening music)
As the iconic Gossip Girl (narrated by Kristen Bell) said in 5×12, “Miss me, Upper East Siders?” I know, I know – it’s been a long 2 weeks and you are just dying to know why the silence and what is up next in my blog. Our Advertising class didn’t meet two weeks ago and we had a midterm just last week – so essentially we were given early treats, not tricks — just in time for Halloween of course.
Even though Halloweekend is over, I’m still going to focus on it for this blog since it’ss till fresh in my mind.
Gossip Girl: All Hallow’s Eve. The one day of the year it’s socially acceptable to play dress-up. The only question is, who do you want to be? There are costumes to make men feel like boys again. Or turn little girls into queens. (3×7, “How to Succeed in Bassness”)
In terms of advertising for Halloween, you have your classic essentials – costumes, candies, and pumpkin carvings.
#1. Costumes — This year, Target photographed a disabled little girl with arm crutches and leg braces, wearing a Frozen Elsa costume, in their Halloween flyers. Personally I commend them – I am tired of seeing the youth of America being corrupted, especially around Halloween, to look cute and sexy with short and scandalous costumes. The model for this costume embodies strength, innocence, and happiness; she helps shine a light on people who are often disregarded and thought about, proving that they are just like everyone else despite their disabilities.
As People Magazine reported, “Jen Spickenagel Kroll, a Michigan mom of a daughter with special needs, posted [this] to her Facebook page in praise of Target – ‘Dear Target, I love you,’ she wrote. ‘Thank you for including a child with braces and arm crutches into your advertising campaign! And as Elsa, no less! My daughter (with arm crutches and prosthetic legs) is going to FLIP when she sees this! Including children with special needs into advertising makes them less of a spectacle to the general public when they venture out into the real world. Normalizing disabilities in children is PRICELESS.’” The post was shared 6,000+ times.
Additionally, fashion brand Ultra Violet Kids included a child with a disability in their promotional Halloween photos for the very first time. According to The Daily Signal, “Four-year-old Zoe Lush, a little girl who is confined to a wheelchair, was one of five child models featured in the brand’s advertising.” She dressed up like a cat and Iris Apfel, and the cat picture currently has 2700+ likes on Instagram. The Daily Signal also reported: “[UVK Founder] Michelle Chaplain argues more companies should include children like Zoe in their ads and that through inclusive advertising a disabled child can feel that there are other people like them in the world. The ads make ‘people feel like they’re just like everybody else,’ she says.”
As I briefly touched upon earlier, costumes –especially for young women – are typically defined and advertised as sexy and hot. Women want to look good and be somebody or something that they typically aren’t for that one highly anticipated night of the year. Mean Girls (2004) perfectly summed this up —
However, did you know that people aren’t the only ones getting dressed up sexy for Halloween?? Take a look at this Mini Cooper Halloween ad from 2013:
#2. Candy — It’s such an important part to Halloween, especially when they become Halloween-themed. We all have our favorites and, no matter how old we get, we’ll always want to trick-or-treat to get free candy. Or at least that’s how I feel anyway … maybe because I can still pass as a high schooler with my height and young-looking face, ha ha ha.
And last, but not least #3. pumpkin carvings — You may not even realize it, but pumpkins can be a great way to advertise what’s currently popular & trendy for that year.
Now that Halloween is over, trade in your haunts and horrors for the holly and the notorious “Ho ho ho” exclamations — Christmas advertising is really being shoved down the throats at consumers everywhere. I mean who cares about Thanksgiving, right? (Me, that’s who!)
This past weekend my family came up to see me since I last saw them at the beginning of September. My younger sister, who is in her senior year of high school, is in the same boat that I was just four years ago: deciding where to go to college. During this brief visit, I was able to talk to her more about what her thought process was in choosing which schools to consider and apply to, and the topic of social media came into the conversation a lot.
Even though the dynamics have not changed (like the questions you ask when making your college list – Big or small campus? Home or away? Frats/Sororities or no? Etc.), I think social media is playing an even bigger role compared to four years ago. I mean maybe I lived underneath a rock back then, but I believe social media is playing a bigger part in how high school seniors are making their decisions since their lives seem to revolve around it so much. And colleges are taking advantage of this craze year-round by promoting their campuses and programs, and shoving it down potential students’ throats about open houses and day visits with updates. I mean look at Siena – on its Admissions Twitter page, they wrote just a week ago, “Just a reminder if you are posting #siena2020 photos on @instagram make sure you make it public or we can’t see it and send the surprise!” Notice a few things? Twitter? Check.Instagram? Check. Engagement? Check. Community-like feeling? Check. A unique hashtag? Check. And to top it all off, a mysterious surprise for saying you got accepted into the school? Check. Why wouldn’t you want to attend Siena?! Siena, just like other colleges across the country, is being smart in their marketing and advertising strategies. Paper brochures and flyers go home to Mom & Dad; social media targets and lures the prospective high school students in by engaging with them; and word-of-mouth gets around to the entire family. (And speaking of paper brochures, guess who is taking part in the Siena professional photo shoot on Thursday for upcoming marketing materials? This girl. I know – lucky me!)
For students like my sister who still are not sure as to where to go, there are so many options available to help with that decision: in-person visits to campus, virtual tours, e-mails, paper brochures, websites, reactions from current students and alumni/alumnae, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest), billboards/newspaper ads, bus stop ads, college fairs, etc. And these prospective students scroll through and scour social media to get the “real” reactions of current students before committing to considering and/or choosing a school. At least I saw this with my own eyes over the summer with my sister’s friends. One of her friends went all along the East Coast (from Massachusetts all the way down to Florida) and visited a whole bunch of colleges she was interested in during her summer vacation. And how do I know this? The girl every few hours of every day of her three week trip updated her SnapChat SnapStory with geotag filters that pinpointed what school she was at on that particular day – with the main picture being a campus location photo. I will be honest some of them were cool and eye-catching design-wise, and I am sure kids these days will base their choices on how pretty a campus is or what cool things surround the college (Washington D.C. pops into mind since the girl went crazy with Snaps of all the monuments). But let’s be real – the green and gold Siena dome and banner geotag filter on Snapchat cannot be beat, ha ha.
It is funny how high school guidance counselors always warn the seniors to be conscious of what they put on social media because colleges will be looking with a simple Google search. But the same goes for colleges too – prospective students are checking social media to see how often the platforms are updated, how they interact with students and potential students, and what kind of reputation they get from all the forms of media and communication they see and hear.
With Donald Trump being a hot topic in the news lately … and the center for comedy as well *cough cough SNL, cough cough Jimmy Fallon* … I’ve found myself watching old seasons of “The Apprentice” in my spare time. I never used to watch them, but now that I’m taking marketing classes for my minor, I have found them both entertaining and informing. Yes, when I watch the very first episode for a particular season, I always try to judge who will win at the end of the season and who’s going to be my season favorite. But more importantly, I try to learn at least one thing from every episode in marketing, business, or management senses. Because even though half of Donald Trump’s tasks seem impossible or crazy, the contenders manage to always do something extraordinary or something not so extraordinary using both their street smarts and book smarts.
So besides comedic media and political media focusing on Donald Trump and his presidential candidacy, why am I bringing up “The Apprentice” in this blog? A common statement that keeps being brought up in Advertising class is “Sex sells.” Funny enough, I was watching the Season 2 finale of “The Apprentice” (episode 16) last week and they dedicated a whole segment called “Sex Sells”, where they looked back at three previous moments of the season where the contestants – both male and female – used their physical appearances and sex appeals to make sales (30:20 – 34:00). Carolyn Kepcher, Donald Trump’s right-hand woman, said she was “ashamed to be a woman” based on the female contestants’ advances, most particularly on the infamous and controversial event that took place on Wall Street with contestant Ivana on Episode 13 (dropping her skirt for $20 to in turn make more money on her M&M candy bar sales). In that same episode, “M&M sisters/twins” Sandy and Jennifer dressed very similarly in red tank tops, skirts, heels, and straightened blonde hair to sell $5 candy bars to people on Wall Street. Ivana said, “They look like strippers with candy bars, cheap hookers … I’m pissed they’re using sex appeal to sell and I need to do something completely drastic to get 20 bucks for this candy bar.” So naturally to beat out her competition, she thought dropping her skirt was the right move to make. Despite her passionate defenses in the boardroom, Ivana was sent home for her actions. Season 2 was written about in online articles about the whole notion of women in the business world based on the Season 2 female contestants’ behaviors.
Even though that episode/season aired in 2004, it is still relevant today as we have concluded so many times in class and have noticed in our everyday lives outside of class (i.e. movie/TV show castings; print and media advertisements). Tonight, for instance, I went to the Women@Work event at New Hall, which was a networking opportunity for undergrad female students to talk to businesswomen. One of the topics that came up immediately in the discussion portion of the event was “Do women still have to meet society’s standards and wear that low-cut shirt at an interview to get the job?” Quite a number of the businesswomen took the mic and said no – women should not have to use their physical appearances to get a job in today’s day and age. As one woman said, “Confidence is the sexiest garment to wear to an interview and in the work place.” Even though this empowering statement is true, “sex sells” is also true as well in the advertising world, especially here in the States.
Last week, I went grocery shopping and, not only was I happy at the end of the day, but so was my bank account. Now that I live in a townhouse, I can’t just buy a few bags of chips or holiday-themed Oreos every so often because they’ll last me a while – now I need to think about actually cooking! (Quick, have 911 ready to go to be called because I cannot cook … seriously like not at all.) So I went into Price Chopper with a good game plan. That afternoon I scoured the weekly flyer online and wrote down all the items I wanted and what items I could potentially use to cook with in a list formation. I don’t know what was more amazing – the list I made or the deals that were in effect for that week! As a college student, I was looking for quality products with decent prices so that I wasn’t killing my wallet either. There was 2 for $4 Barilla pasta sauce; Buy 1 Freihofer’s cookies, get 2 free English muffin packages; 10 for $10 Campbell’s tomato soups; 10 for $10 3-liter Poland Springs; 10 for $10 Cheese Nips; 10 for $10 cans of tuna; 10 for $10 pasta side dishes; and 8 Entemann’s donuts for only $2.99. How amazing does all of that sound?! The best part was I could get all of these deals because I had a Price Chopper AdvantEdge card. And on top of all that, I found e-coupons on the Price Chopper website, printed them out, and clipped them out to be used on that trip too!
When I finally made it to the store, I felt like such a mom – I got a shopping cart, put my purse right in front, and had my pen and paper in hand as I went to the aisles I needed to go to. I had a set game plan and really had no intentions of swaying from what I had written down. Yes, some things were out of stock so I had to think on my feet and find suitable replacements for reasonable prices. And for other products, I was willing to pay a little more because of the brand name because it had good quality and I’ve had good experiences with such brands in the past – brand loyalty right there [Chapter 4 principle]. At some points as I was going up and down the aisles I had some cognitive dissonance (a conflict of two thoughts); like I wanted to buy a bunch of junk food, but didn’t have the money to just give into that temptation [Chapter 5 principle]. And with junk food in mind, I had my grandmother’s nagging voice inside my head – That’ll make you fat. You gotta watch your weight and figure. How are you going to get a boyfriend when you’re busy stuffing cookies in your mouth? Not only is my grandma vain and obsessed with physical appearances, but so is society – follow the latest health trend instead of giving in and eating fast food or junk food [external and internal noises – Chapter 5 principles]. Yes, I indulged and splurged, and bought some cookies and snacks because I’m not going to let society dictate what I can and cannot eat for pleasure. But I was really proud of myself that I didn’t really buy on impulse when it was so easy to just reach over to a product and plop it into the cart [Chapter 4 principle].
At the end of the trip, I purchased 23 items for a total of $38.28, which I thought was pretty good. My roommate, on the other hand, did not check the weekly flyer and bought quite a number of products on impulse – meaning she had a much higher bill when compared to mine – needless to say she was jealous of me. Obviously I love a good deal and can’t wait to go grocery shopping again. For now I’ll just keep watching “Extreme Couponing” reruns – when I’m not doing my Advertising homework of course – to keep the motivation going.
Fun fact: one of things I kinda hate when going to restaurants is the waiter or waitress emphasizing the fact that they don’t carry the soda brand I asked for and asking if the equivalent is feasible instead. Ma’am, we don’t have Coke. Our menu says Pepsi products. Do you want something else or is Pepsi ok? I was raised in a Coca-Cola household all my life (don’t know why – that’s just the way it is), but I don’t make a scene in a restaurant and refuse to drink Pepsi if they only have Pepsi; I say ok, whatever, Pepsi’s fine because I just instinctively say Coke from habit and preference [brand loyalty and brand relationship – Chapter 2 principle]. Yes, there is a difference in taste (that’s a fact, not an opinion), but whatever, I don’t care that much – just give me a carbonated drink, please and thank you. But some people get crazy over the matter and judge each other’s taste buds on that age-old question.
However, this brings me to my next point – it’s not just enough anymore to choose & buy one brand over another, pick up a can or bottle, hear the click and fizzle, and take a swig of your favorite soda. Now companies give incentives for drinking soda through brand loyalty programs [Chapter 2 principle] – redeemable codes underneath bottle caps or printed on the insides of cardboard boxes – which give consumers the chance to ‘claim’ a variety of prizes through a point system (cough cough Coke). Kinda ironic right? Drink a ton of sugary soda to get that free steam cooker – worth 1050 points AKA 350 bottles of soda – you’ve always wanted, but never got a chance to buy (this is an example from mycokerewards.com). Recently over the summer to endorse its summer concert promotions, Pepsi humorously fired shots against Coke, as seen in the two different TV commercials, in order to convince consumers to buy their products and not Coca-Cola’s [Chapter 3 principle]. Pepsi mocks the iconic Coca-Cola polar bear mascot and also criticizes its recent “Share a Coke With” promotional campaign with personalized products (see videos below). According to the Business Insider article, “Coke is the largest carbonated soft drink brand in the US with a 17.6% of the market, while Pepsi is number two, with an 8.8% share, according to Beverage Digest data for 2014” (O’Reilly). Of course, it’s only natural that Pepsi tries to stir the pot by going after its competition, and that is something that will never ever change.
One of the things I wanted to also bring up in this blog post that’s somewhat related was comparing the past with the present, which was inspired by the 1994 Diet Coke commercial we watched in class today. Nearly 20 years later in 2013, Coca-Cola revamped the ‘Diet Coke Construction Worker’ commercial with the ‘Diet Coke Lawn Mower Stud’. Even though they’re in different times, the same ideals still apply and the same objectifications take place: a shirtless, chiseled working-man; a suggestive song playing in the background; and the women gaping and swooning. Except this time – both the man and women are drinking Diet Coke, and the main woman initiates the soda-drinking action by rolling the can towards him and giving him the ‘drink up’ gesture. Regardless of the time lapse and these slight differences, what does this say about us – as consumers? As a culture? I think the answer’s pretty obvious, and Coca-Cola is not the only brand/company to use these kinds of tactics when developing and producing advertisements to get into people’s heads and wallets.